Pets archive

The jemjabella household is a bit of a zoo, covering several different species: from pedigree cats to exotic spiders. While a hundred (exaggeration) pets might not be everyone's idea of fun, and there's no shortage of cleaning duties to be had, there's always something furry looking for a cuddle and a fuss.

How to care for 11 animals and not go crazy

After Stephanie asked how we manage all the animals with everything else we’ve got on, and we recently doubled our guinea pig population, I thought it was probably a good time to write about how the hell we care for all these animals without going crazy.

We have a routine

Back when we only had a few pets we’d clean them out when it seemed like a good idea, scoop poop when we remembered etc. It’s not good – so easy to accidentally miss a scooping and wake up to cat shit all over your floor because the highly clean moggies have got peed off at the poop mound in the corner of their tray. These days we have a specific daily routine:

– Karl feeds cats & scoops poop while I’m sorting the children’s breakfast
– After Karl has gone to work & Izz to nursery (when applicable) I go outside to check on the bunnies & piggies, top up hay and do any necessary spot-cleans of hutches and trays. If I’m going to be at home all day I let the rabbits out too.

– After the kids have gone to bed it’s fresh veg prep for the bunnies & piggies, another round of spot-cleans on hutches and trays (the rabbits are “litter” trained), fresh hay & water all round etc
– Once the outdoor animals are sorted it’s another round of cat food & poop scooping indoors

– Litter trays are emptied & scrubbed
– Hutches are emptied & scrubbed
– Water bowls and bottles are scrubbed

We keep on top of cleaning

See above: spot-cleans on hutches etc. It seems like it takes up a lot of time when you explain it, but when you do it twice a day it helps stop poop mounds building up and spreading. It takes a few minutes and is much more hygienic for the animals.

We work together

I sort food bowls while Karl sweeps or vice versa. I sort the kids while Karl sorts the cats. And so on… it’s all about team work. Although the division of labour in this house is definitely not 50/50, it’s certainly heading that way. I absolutely cannot abide the notion that women should be the ones doing all the housework and that applies to animal/pet related chores too. (Don’t get me started!)

We avoid ‘messy’ products

Last but not least, we try and avoid products that make our lives harder. For example, we use a great clumping litter which is a little pricier than most but means that we can scoop a pee out of the tray leaving just clean litter behind (and it doesn’t flick about the place as much as some litters).

For the outdoor animals, we’ve recently switched to ‘vet bed’ instead of woodshavings. Now we can sweep out the pigpig poos using a dustpan and brush, wee is absorbed through to an under layer of paper based litter and the guinea pigs stay clean and tray (same principle for the rabbit litter tray). It turns out that woodshavings are associated with respiratory issues too, so this was a good decision all round.

All that said, it really is just a case of getting off your arse and getting on with it. Actual pet-maintenance doesn’t take more than an hour a day which leaves lots more for cuddling the little furry buggers. :D

Old MacDonald had a farm

…and so do we, or it’s beginning to look a lot like that anyway!

On Friday last week we trekked 40 minutes across the county to visit, and ultimately bring home, a pair of guinea pigs from Piggy Kingdom, a local(ish) guinea pig rescue. The grand plan was that we’d bring the pair of baby piggies home and attempt a bond with Big Pig (aka Ginger) who’s been with us since 2008 but lost his mate Afro a couple of years later. It’s been on my todo list for a while but always seemed low priority. Big Pig seems content enough, right?

So, brought them home, popped them together on the kitchen floor (neutral space) with some food, hay and hideyholes and let them get on with it. Thought that it was all going well, as demonstrated by the picture I posted to twitter:

guinea pig trio

But unfortunately this moment of calm sharing of mutual space was short-lived; Stripe (the name will be self-explanatory when I can get some better pics) had objections to being usurped as chief pig of the pair and we had to separate them before somepig got hurt.

Stripe and Spot are currently living in temporary indoor accomodation and will probably stay that way until after Christmas where we will be addressing the living space.

So, the hunt was on to find another pig – a single this time – and I was planning on going back to the rescue because they’d been so helpful, but then Karl sends me a link to an article on the local newspaper website about a lady that bequeathed 20 guinea pigs to a nearby plant & animal centre. They already have 40 guinea pigs and 60 was putting them over capacity so were after homes for the extras. One phone call later and a mad dash 20 minutes down the road and I brought home Little Pig (who may or may not be renamed..!)


And it’s all looking quite positive :D

13 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Bunnies

With having had to source a mate for Flymo this year we had to research into how to introduce a second rabbit. It’s not as simple as sticking rabbit #2 in the hutch and letting them get on with things; each rabbit is different and a gradual bonding process works best. Anyway, in doing this research I discovered lots of other things about rabbits that I didn’t know before despite having kept them since I was a child. So here’s my list of 13 things you probably didn’t know about bunnies but do now…

  1. Bunnies are the 3rd most popular pet in the UK

    After dogs and cats – we love our furry bunnies :)

  2. Bunnies should be kept in pairs or groups

    Rabbits are social animals and naturally keep together in groups in the wild. Rabbits kept alone are easily bored which can make them destructive (Flymo hasn’t tried to dig out since we got Rosie!) and can lead to health problems due to inactivity and loneliness.

  3. 70-80% of a bunnies diet should be hay/grass

    20120625-bugsbunnyDespite what Bugs Bunny would have you believe, the core of a bunny’s diet should actually be good quality hay and/or grass. Carrots are high in sugar and should be an occasional treat only.

    Pet shop hay is expensive and often short-stranded. If you have animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, I highly recommend finding a local farm or equestrian centre who may be able to provide you with baled hay at a fraction of the cost it’s found in shops.

  4. Rabbits need constant access to their hay/food

    Rabbits that stop eating because they have no access to appropriate foods can very quickly go into gut stasis (slowdown of the digestive system) which, simply put, if not caught and treated quickly can be fatal.

  5. Bunnies perform a digestive process called caecotrophy

    Without going into too much unwanted detail, this basically means that they produce a special sort of poo which they then eat, allowing the goodness etc to be re-ingested. (Eurghh!)

  6. A hutch is not enough

    The RWAF recommend a 6ft x 2ft x 2ft hutch with an attached 8ft run as a minimum living area for 2 rabbits. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, pet owners are required by law to meet their animal’s welfare needs; these include providing a suitable environment. The RSPCA believes the traditional method of keeping rabbits permanently confined in small hutches is totally inappropriate for the long-term housing of rabbits kept as pets.

    Most pet shops, including larger retailers like Pets at Home do not stock hutches big enough for rabbits to move around, stretch up, exercise etc. Most of the hutches currently for sale on P@H are not big enough for guinea pigs, let alone rabbits! Specialised retailers of suitable hutches are out there, e.g. The Welfare Hutch Company

  7. Rabbits don’t make good pets for children

    Rabbits are prey animals, and this means they don’t like being picked up. While some rabbits can be gently encouraged into it with regular handling, some rabbits will never let you pick them up (like Flymo). As such, children very quickly get bored of them because they can’t cuddle and pet them.

  8. Rabbits can live for an average of 7-10 years

    In that time, rabbits will accrue costs including: hay (and supplementary veg/pellets/etc), hutch and run (or costs for securing the garden) including maintenance to keep them weatherproof, castration, yearly vaccinations, toys and vet check-ups.

  9. Bunnies of both sex should be neutered

    Aside from the obvious reduction of unwanted pregnancy (and you shouldn’t want a bunny pregnancy – you’ll read why in a second) female rabbits are at risk of uterine cancer when unspayed: up to 80% of un-neutered female rabbits develop uterine cancer by 5 years of age. Un-neutered male rabbits can be overwhelmed by hormones making them sexually frustrated and miserable (not to mention more territorial, more aggressive and more likely to spray).

  10. Rabbits can have a litter of babies each month

    If left unspayed/un-neutered, rabbits can reproduce at a rate of one litter each month. With a range of 1-14 baby bunnies per litter and the long lifespan mentioned above, it’s unsurprisingy why there are…

  11. ..over 33,000 rabbits in rescues up and down the country

    Rescues, both those owned by organisations such as the RSPCA and those owned by Joe Public, are full of rabbits desperate to find homes. Every rescue I spoke to in researching this post said that they are at capacity for rabbits, turning away rabbits every day.

    Here are quotes from some of the rescues I spoke to:

    I hold the rabbit waiting list and it is currently running at about 70 – which is has been at for some time. It is a very, very worrying responsibility trying to prioritise which ones need to come in most urgently. Our average monthly bill is £3000 – over £2000 of this is vet bills.

    our capacity is 30 rabbits … at the moment we have 32 rabbits in

    I volunteer at a sanctuary every sat and work exclusively with the buns. We have about 90 rabbits at the moment, and about 50 cages. I am tasked with increasing this to 70ish as we are under pressure to take more in all the time. We have taken in about 40 in the past month.

    Despite this situation, which is only getting worse…

  12. …I count over 30 breeders in a 25 mile radius selling through preloved

    Continued breeding means that not only do those rabbits already in rescue get overlooked, but more numbers are added to rescues when owners get bored of their new pets / don’t have time to look after them anymore / move away / whatever other reason people use.

    Not only that, but…

  13. …Pets at Home continue to breed rabbits for sale in store

    Despite making a loss on animal sales (alexn – 04-22-2013, 02:54 PM animals are still bred “on a scale that is large enough to supply us […] have many separate breeders across the UK”, sold alongside the cages that are too small to adequately house them according to their needs.

OK, so those last few might not quite count as rabbit facts, but it’s pretty plain to see that we’re in a crap situation when it comes to homing domesticated rabbits in this country. While pet shop / back yard breeding remains legal and encouraged, we will see a continued increase in the pressure on rescues to provide for unwanted bunnies.

I post this not to guilt anyone who has ever bought a pet shop bunny (Flymo came from Pets at Home) but to think again before buying into the pet shop trade. Not everyone can afford to buy a bloody great big shed to house their bunnies, but most people can afford to stop and do their research before taking on an animal. (I’ll follow this up soon with a post on how you can help, even if you can’t take on rescue bunnies of your own.)

The Woman With 40 Cats

Karl and I have just watched The Woman With 40 Cats on catch-up TV and joked at length how that could easily be me.

Not 5 minutes later, we’re discussing ways to increase the capacity for guinea pigs in the garden and he suggests the potential for re-using Flymo’s old hutch for more piggies.

And I’m the animal hoarder?!

I want chickens

If you’ve ever read my about page you’ll know that I would quite like to keep chickens. Part of it is because I just have this thing about animals but mostly it’s because we spend an absolute fortune on eggs. I eat them in cakes & mayonnaise, Isabel can eat 3-4 hardboiled eggs in one go, and then there’s the egg butties, egg fried rice, eggy bread… yeah, we like eggs :)

Now that Flymo is in the shed with Rosie, his old hutch (which is actually this chicken coop) can be tidied up and re-used for actual chickens! That lay eggs! For cakes! Yay! (Exciting, hence the exclamation marks, you know…)

Buuuut, there is a slight problem in that I want more rabbits. Because they’re cute and furry:

obligatory cute bunny pic
obligatory cute bunny pic

However, as it can be difficult to bond multiples of rabbits if it didn’t work we’d have to house them in something else, like the old “hutch”, so if we put chickens in it there would be no room for furry bunnies. We can’t justify new hutches at the minute because of the costs of the shed (and just prior to that we had to replace the guinea pig’s hutches) so that leaves a choice: chickens or rabbits.

Hmm. There is actually a bigger problem than this tiny wee dilemma, actually: Karl doesn’t want any more animals right now. Probably should crack that nut first, eh?

The Animal Shed

We recently bought two sheds: a 6×4″ for the tools and general garden crap, and an 8×6″ for the animal hutches. Or that was the general plan anyway.

After battling for an entire weekend to get the 8×6″ up (due to a combination of location, size and having to build it around 2 ‘helpful’ small children) we realised that the rabbit ‘hutch’ (which is actually a chicken coop) and guinea pig’s double hutch took up so much room in there that there wasn’t enough room to move round them or clear them out even though they were occupying the same space before the shed was constructed.

So we came up with a little plan. And I say ‘we’, but really it was someone else’s plan first and we were simply creatively inspired! :) The Animal Shed was born… (more…)

Meet Rosie

Well, that was quick. I know, I know, just a few days ago discussing a rescue rabbit and yet here we are with a bunny.

She’s not a “rescue” bunny, as such. But we have rescued her in as such that her future was uncertain, as she was being offered ‘free to good home’ on preloved. Free to good home rabbits are often taken in and resold and that kind of upheaval is not good for them (some are also taken in as snake food apparently..!)

rosie rabbit
Blurry pic because she won’t keep still!

That was how we justified her anyway ;)

She’s been looked after in that she’s had plenty of hay and a decent quality food, but the cage she spent most of her time in is woefully small. Off the top of my head, the minimum guidelines for rabbit hutches are 6ft x 2ft x 2ft (which is much bigger than most commercial rabbit hutches – but that’s a rant for another day) and she’s in a beginner rat cage: don’t think you need the measurements to see the problem there.

There is a slightly bigger problem too: she’s an indoors rabbit. So now we have to figure out how quickly we can adjust her to outdoors, or even if it’s possible this late in the year. She’s got her health check with the vet on Tuesday next week so we can ask then if I can’t find an answer on t’interwebs. Bit odd having a rabbit on the sofa in the mean time…

A bunny friend

It’s a fact that the vast majority of rabbits do better with a friend. From what I gather it’s because in the wild they live in large groups, and are very sociable with other bunnies. They like to groom each other, play, cuddle up to keep warm etc. All fairly typical stuff and something Flymo can’t do because he’s currently living on his own :(

Karl and I have been discussing getting a friend for Flymo and have decided to go ahead with it. We won’t need a bigger hutch or peripherals because we’ve got all that stuff already, so the only ongoing costs are food (negligible as our animals are on the grass most of the day) and vets bills – vaccinations, castration etc – that are accounted for in our savings. We could even save a little bit by getting a rescue bunny which would be spayed and vaccinated (donation costs usually work out less than total castration+vaxx costs).

Indeed, a rescue bunny is actually a better idea overall because then we can get one roughly the same age as Flymo and don’t have to worry as much about one dying before the other and we’d be giving a bunny in need a good home. However, therein lies a small problem: we appear to have very few rescue centres nearby and the one main RSPCA place has “not suitable for children under 5” listed on all their adverts (or in some cases, 7 or higher!)

I can understand that some animals are timid and are not suited to the boistrous behaviour of a toddler, and that some parents buy animals for their kids only for them to lose interest within a couple of weeks, but neither of those apply here. For starters, the animals are never left with the kids unsupervised and always have hiding places to go to when they’re out, and secondly the animals here aren’t FOR them (they play no part in cleaning them out etc at this stage.)

Hopefully we’ll be able to have a chat with the centre and get some flexibility on that rule, or otherwise we’ll have to look elsewhere. Either way, our zoo is about to increase in size again!

Cat run & the all weather drying solution

Last year we built a cat run. The original plan was to have one built for us by a guy who specialises in bespoke wooden runs but after 2 visits he went quiet and despite numerous calls and emails we’ve never heard anything back.

Anyway, we did some searching and found some metal run panels designed for commercial kennels etc on & and figured they’d be the perfect self-assembly solution. Not quite as attractive as a wooden run but some outside space for the cats at last.

Crumble cat in outdoor run
Crumble surveying ‘her’ space


Small Furry Disaster

Anyone got any recipes for rabbit stew? Someone’s been a very bad rabbit.


After moving the rabbit and guinea pig hutches up to the gap at the back of the top lawn (I know this means nothing to you unless you’ve seen my garden) last month, we’ve been able to give Flymo access to the garden. The ‘dog leg’, our weird little sticky out bit of garden where I grow my veg, was secured using an old gate from the front and any gaps blocked with wood and concrete bits.

Or so we thought…

Turns out rabbits can dig holes much faster than we imagined. So when we went out for the day and came back to a large pile of mud by the gate and a rabbit-sized hole to the dog leg we were a little err… surprised? Surprise turned to mega annoyance when I realised that the little shit had not only dug a big hole but had hot-footed it down to my veg beds where laziness had meant that my tomatoes, beans, peas etc were only just shooting up. Tiny little rabbit-snack sized shoots. He has demolished everything bar my garlic, and dug big holes in the soil too.

Unfortunately as we weren’t expecting the rabbit to be in the dog leg we’d not secured it and so Flymo had got out. But, fortunately for Flymo, next door’s garden (where he’d escaped to) was secure on all sides apart from the tiny holes under the fence to our garden so he’d not managed to go far. Even luckier was the fact that next door and his dog had gone out so the garden was empty. We called Flymo a few times who then raced up next door’s garden and started lolloping up and down alongside the fence. One rescue later (including me in my PJs climbing through a partially dismantled fence with a cat carrier) and he’s back where he should be.

Lesson learned: no more unsupervised garden time until we can be sure the garden is 100% secure. Shame about the no home grown veg for me this year though :(


I can’t decide if Crumble is one of the stupidest cats I’ve ever owned, or one of the smartest… acting like an idiot to gain sympathy for being so simple.

Furry Fun in the Sun